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  • roland00047


Updated: Feb 1, 2021


Do the Facts Really Matter Most?


We are living in the age of technology.  Information is gathered, processed and then fitted into prescribed boxes.  Using advanced software, we know more about when, why and how people choose to give.  It’s all about measurement.  Or so says some philanthropic research.


So based on this belief, the way to a contributor's generosity – whether a grant maker or an individual - is obviously through his or her brain.  Those old rules about emotional stories, personal recognition, and pure emotion must now take a back seat to the cold hard facts.  It’s a new day for Modern Philanthropy!

And if you believe that, you REALLY need to read on!


Why do industries spend billions on advertisement and brand and “touches”?  Do people drink Coke (or insert your brand here) because it tastes so delicious? 

Human beings are a bundle of contradictory emotions and feelings. 

As advertisers know so well, it’s not what people say, it’s not even about what they think. It’s what they feel. Raising money for a good cause is no different.  Here are two fundraising scenarios representing the nexus of the confusion between fact versus feeling.


Recognition Doesn’t Matter?

We have all heard from a friend or donor that recognition is wasted on them.  Forget the plaques, forget the photos, eliminate the public accolades.  These generous people are often (but not always) sincere in their statements, and perhaps they have made a personal choice to accept intrinsic reward for their generosity.   They might even believe it.  But does that mean that recognition doesn’t really matter to them?   It would be a mistake to believe that.

So in that case . . . . . .  What DOES matter to them?


Consciously, a supporter may have decided to avoid public recognition based on personal standards.  But that doesn't mean they don't appreciate being appreciated.  Until humans become computers, feelings do matter.  Perhaps many of our most generous supporters are sick of trite and uncreative tributes that have no meaning to them. Or they are embarrassed at overt, public displays of gratitude.  Perhaps what they don't want is cookie-cutter thank you's, or public accolades that are more about them than the cause.

And that makes the challenge that much more inspiring – because now we must find the way to a patron’s heart, without the easy props.   Feelings do indeed matter.   

The "how-to's" are endless and beyond of the scope of this short article.  Be creative, customize your appreciation, keep it personal, keep it quiet, but whatever you do - please don't forget the personal recognition.  Find a way.

The "how-to's" are endless and beyond of the scope of this short article.  Be creative, customize your appreciation, keep it personal, keep it quiet, but whatever you do - please don't forget the personal recognition.  Find a way.


Just Give Me the Outcomes Please (and hold the ketchup)

So the other day I overheard an experienced grant manager commenting that research has revealed that grantors don’t care about the creative writing, they just want the facts.   Uh huh.   And I’m sure someone did a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial study (Google it) to come up with this scientific conclusion.  Or more likely, here’s the gist of the research: “Dear Grantor, how much does the emotional impact of the grant affect your decision to move the proposal up the pipeline, as compared to the facts”?  And the predictable answer was,  “Well it matters very little, we are totally data based here, and we look for impact, numerical proof, and outcomes divided by the square root of concept”.   Do you believe that is true?


Data matters.  Outcomes are critical to grant making - and when you are dealing with professionals, your facts better be convincing.  But does that negate the value of presentation, storyline and emotional impact?  Again, we humans are a bundle of emotions and impressions.  Our goal is to create interest and draw the reader in.

This does not exclude grantmakers, many who love their job precisely because they enjoy making the world better. Facts are obviously perceived in the context in which they are presented.  Don't hold the emotion, weave it into the facts, create a story.  The facts are the facts, they will stand on their own.  But the rest is up to presentation.


Don’t just talk about impact, present things with impact!


It is a delusion to believe that giving isn’t affected by an emotional presentation, or by sincere, honest recognition.  No matter what the issue - fundraising is inherently a field with heart.  It’s science and art mixed into a creative impact salad.

Think outside the box to provide gratitude in the way a donor will most value it.  Present the facts in a creative and touching way.  Influence your supporters’s feelings, not just your mission.

In the end, your fundraising will show greater success, and your donors will be far more engaged.  And those are the cold, hard “facts” most worth considering.


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